When social media barged into our consciousness, it was one hell of a revolution in the way we construct and reproduce social meaning and our identities.
Social media provided a new avenue to get in touch with friends from all over the world, and from all over our life stories. Social media also provided us the opportunity to get in touch even with ourselves.
Social media, indeed, has become the mirror not only to look at our selfies, but as a powerful window to look into our collective selves as a people. Beyond our faces, the food we eat, and the friends and relatives we miss, and the places we visited, social media became the new domain by which many of us have exercised our freedom to express our politics.
And it is in this domain that it became even more revolutionary, for it became the venue that allowed the power of words to cause oppressive icons to fall, and for hegemonic discourses to lose power and crumble.
One of the casualties of this explosion of freedoms to express is traditional media.
News and public affairs used to be the exclusive territory of professional journalists but whose work ethic has been confined within the operations of networks and news corporations effectively under the control either by media moguls, or by the state apparatus. The power of reportage, therefore, became defined in the context of ratings translated to profits, or propaganda translated to political power.
Eventually, the separate worlds of the corporatist media and the statist media found a common ground when media corporations, seen in broadcast networks as well as in newspapers, tabloids and later internet-based platforms, began functioning more as partisan political pawns instead of being true to their commitments to being objective bearers of news.
And what made it dangerous was when, from being a servant of politics, media turned to become its master, and has become the tail that would wag the dog. The power of traditional media to own politics has never been stronger as when, instead of just reporting politics, that media began shaping it.
It is against this entrenchment of traditional media as being no longer just a mouthpiece of political power, but as its shaper, that the social media, with its citizen journalism, asserted its revolutionary power to make uncomfortable those who turned media into an exclusive political enterprise.
Uncontrolled, unvetted and unedited, citizen journalism escaped the control of networks and governments to become the warriors not necessarily for truth, but simply for counter-narratives to traditional news reporting that is in the service of political power, and to arrogant exclusivity of what should be construed as accounts of events.
It is in this discursive universe that ordinary citizens posted their comments, where memes turned into powerful weapons of the weak, and where Facebook and Twitter became fertile grounds for everyday forms of resistance. What further made this as a natural ground for the Pinoy is our penchant for parody, satire and the carnival, where we do not have a shortage of talent not only in turning our tragedies into comedies, but in turning our tormentors into objects for our laughter.
Social media provided for a free access by the ordinary to what used to be a restricted space for the professional and institutionalized practice of journalism.
The downside of this, however, is that it also provided a breeding ground for trolls and bashers, and a nesting place for fakery and for irresponsible anonymity. Trolling and bashing became new forms of political activism.
And I personally experienced being a victim of trolling and bashing.
But how can I complain, when I am also taking advantage of this new space of freedom to challenge the controlled production of news, and the edited expression of opinion.
In the face of a traditional and corporatist media that has taken control of politics, I see trolling and fake news sites as the necessary evil that we have to tame, and deal with, but not abolish. They serve their functions as the conduit for this pluralism of voices that can only but create spaces for truth to prevail. The fear that trolling and fake news sites could stunt democratic dialogue, by polluting it with trash, is simply an elitist scare tactic. How can it be so when it does not have the power to take down and censor. On the contrary, social media has a mechanism to correct itself by trolling the troll, bashing the basher and exposing the faker.
In this discursive universe, trolls and fakers should not be seen as noise to be silenced, but as opportunities for courage and truth to prevail, for that is how you deal with bashers and fakers. You exceed the first, and expose the second.
Besides, fake news sites are the best way to differentiate the gullible from the rationally sane. You believe in them at your own peril.